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Sunday November 17, 2019
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Big-league Wolverine?

Local baseball star James Bourque has a shot at the major leagues.

by Michael Betzold

From the March, 2019 issue

James Bourque was a dominant pitcher at every level in Ann Arbor youth leagues, at Huron High, and then with the Wolverines. But his parents weren't exactly crushed when he hurt his arm four years ago.

During his first year in the farm system of the Washington Nationals, Bourque damaged the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, and underwent the so-called Tommy John surgery to repair it. That meant a mandatory year of recovery--which, much to his parents' delight, he used to come back to finish his B.A. in history.

"That was our main goal, to have him finish his degree," says Debra Bourque, a research administrator at the ISR's Research Center for Group Dynamics, "and that worked out perfectly." His father, Tom Bourque, is a local attorney who ran but lost a race for district court judge last fall.

Now their son has a decent chance at making the big leagues. Coaches converted him from a starting pitcher to a reliever last year, and his velocity and control improved enough that the Nationals put him on their forty-man roster this winter to keep another club from drafting him. He'll make at least $44,500 this year--more than all his seasons in the minors combined. If the Nats decide they need him on their twenty-five man active roster at any time this season, he'll get the MLB minimum: $545,000.

Now local fans can track the pro careers of two graduates of the Ann Arbor sandlots--Zach Putnam has pitched for four different teams over parts of seven years in the majors, with one excellent season for the Chicago White Sox, before being derailed by his own Tommy John surgery in 2017. After his year of recovery, Putnam, now thirty-one, is in the Boston Red Sox's camp this spring as a non-roster free agent.

We can dream that Bourque and Putnam--each potentially on powerhouse teams--will one day pitch against each other in the World Series.     (end of article)

[Originally published in March, 2019.]


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